Utah Attorney Diana J. Huntsman Wins Police Misconduct and Unreasonable Seizure Case

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Diana J. Huntsman, of Huntsman | Lofgran, PLLC, a Salt Lake City attorney, wins case for a client whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated by officers with the Unified Police Department.

Attorney Diana J. Huntsman

The Constitution guarantees each of us the right to ‘liberty,’ which includes freedom from police officers detaining us absent reason to believe we’ve committed or are about to commit a crime.

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Salt Lake City attorney Diana J. Huntsman recently won a police misconduct and unreasonable seizure case (Case No. 15-4020, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit) for a client whose constitutional rights were violated by officers of the Unified Police Department for Salt Lake County.

Court documents state that a motorist called 911 to report that he saw a man take a shotgun from the trunk of a car into a house in Riverton, Utah. Unified Police Department officers Kenneth C. Gates and Kenyon T. Madsen (defendants) responded to the call. Court documents further state that Robert Stoedter (plaintiff), who was relaxing on the front porch visiting with his uncle, matched the 911 caller’s description of the man with the shotgun; however, the defendants did not see a gun. Despite this, they approached with guns drawn, forced the men face down on the ground, and handcuffed them. They then learned he was returning with the shotgun from a hunting trip and released the two men from handcuffs.

“The Constitution guarantees each of us the right to ‘liberty,’ which includes freedom from police officers detaining us absent reason to believe we’ve committed or are about to commit a crime,” said Huntsman, attorney for the plaintiff. “Simply possessing a gun is not enough to create such a belief.”

Court documents further allege that the home was searched without a warrant or permission. Stoedter later sued the defendants, alleging that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure; as the 911 caller reported no crime, it is not unlawful to possess a shotgun in Utah, and the defendants had no reasonable suspicion of any crime at the moment they seized him. Judge Jenkins of the federal Utah District Court agreed, as did the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which just affirmed, ruling that the defendants violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights.

“The right to ‘bear arms’ is a constitutional right. There has to be something more to mere possession, or alleged possession to justify the police treating a citizen like a criminal,” concluded Huntsman. “The officers in this case simply did not have such justification. As a result, what they did violated Mr. Stoedter’s constitutional rights.”

Huntsman continued: “If the police are permitted to treat a phone call that mentions a gun as if there’s an automatic crime involved, then the 400,000-plus hunters in Utah, and all of us who associate with them, are in danger of being approached at gunpoint and handcuffed for no reason, like Mr. Stoedter and his uncle. The United States Constitution requires more than that from the police who swear to protect us. Hopefully this ruling will remind Utah officers of our rights, and their responsibilities, so that others are protected from similar or more serious injuries.”

About Diana J. Huntsman, Huntsman | Lofgran
Diana J. Huntsman is a senior partner of Huntsman | Lofgran, PLLC, licensed in the state of Utah for 23 years, and a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated attorney. Practice areas of Huntsman | Lofgran, PLLC include personal injury, family law, bankruptcy, IRS and Utah tax law, business law, and estate planning and probate. For more information, please call (801) 474-0031, or visit http://www.hla-law.net. The law office is located at 623 E. Fort Union Boulevard, Suite 201, Salt Lake City, UT 84047.

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